It has been common practice among Calvinists to add a postscript of SDG or Soli Deo Gloria in their communications with each other, especially when a particular blessing has been received. I would like to propose a new expression—SBG or Suffering Before Glory.
One of the core tenets of the doctrine of union with Christ is that everything in the way of the Christian life that a believer receives or goes through in the application of redemption (ordo salutis) is predicated upon Christ having merited or gone through the thing bestowed or experienced, beforehand, in His accomplishment of redemption (historia salutis). This means that just as Christ suffered before He was received into glory, the one united to Him through faith must also suffer before he is glorified in the consummation.
While there is suffering that is the lot of every human being by virtue of subsistence in a fallen world, there is suffering that is unique to the Christian.
The world system, i.e., that philosophy of life that seeks to set man up as God, is hostile to the one who denies himself and lives a life of dependence on God—a life lived in light of the Creator-creature distinction.
Satan and his minions, they who seek to rob God of the glory that is due Him as the Sovereign Lord of reality, tirelessly go up against the children of God because they are the only ones, with the image of God restored in them, who are capable of redounding the glory of creation unto Him who is its Creator.
Finally, there is the self as considered with indwelling sin. This is the source of the Christian's greatest antagonism, and the cry of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 leaves no room for doubt as to the nature of the struggle that elicits such convulsions of soul.
This suffering is glorifying, not just for the Christian in the conclusion of his pilgrimage, but presently to Christ, since it produces His image in the Christian sufferer and serves to increase His mediatorial glory. The one who proclaims allegiance to Christ but is not desirous of affording Him the glory that He rightly deserves will shrink away from suffering. Consequently, he will not be glorified at Christ's return.
May the following meditation from Herman Hoeksema in Peace for the Troubled Heart strengthen you for suffering. SBG!
"Our light affliction— the means to the end.
Only by considering his suffering in the light of the invisible things, not the visible things, can a man be blessed and reconciled with the brief way of his light affliction.
Truly, the mere comparison of present affliction and future glory is comforting for the afflicted soul in the midst of the things that are seen. The mere remembrance of the things that are not seen as the object of our blessed hope is sufficient to make us rejoice in the midst of suffering and to cause us to sing songs in the night.
But the mere comparison does not satisfy. It does not reconcile us even with our light affliction, because it does not reveal the reason. It does not show us the necessity of our present suffering. Why, after all, the suffering? Granted that it is only light and quickly passing and flitting away, when viewed in the light of the exceeding weight of eternal glory that awaits us in the world of unseen things. The fact remains that while we endure it, the burden of it is heavy and the pain of it severe. Were it not far better, then, to obtain the exceeding weight of glory in a different way and to be free from suffering in this world of visible things?
Yes, but our light affliction works a far more exceeding weight of glory. There is a causal relation between the affliction and the glory, between our experience in the world of visible things and our glory in the world invisible.
The light affliction is a means; the glory is the end. Our present suffering is the way, and there is none other. The future glory is the destination whither the way is leading. The affliction yields fruit, and the fruit is the far more exceeding weight of glory. The former is necessary to the latter. Without the means we would not gain the end. Unless we travel the way, difficult and rough though it may frequently be, we cannot reach the destination.
Then all is well and we are reconciled with the way.
We may not always understand the exact relation or be able to discern the connection between our light affliction and the glory God has in store for his people. In fact, more often than not we cannot. We grasp a few great and general truths. Did not God himself choose the deep and awful way of sin and grace, with all its misery and death, yea, with the suffering and death of his only begotten Son in its very center, to realize the far more exceeding weight of the glory he has prepared for those whom he loved with an eternal and predestinating love? Was the way of the cross and all its agony of soul and body not necessary for the Lord, in order that he might attain to his glorious mediator’s crown? Can we not see that suffering sanctifies, that affliction purifies us as gold is proved by fire? Yea, do we not understand that the outward man must perish day by day and must ultimately perish in death, in order that the inward man may be renewed and finally glorified?
Yea, the earthly house of this tabernacle must be dissolved, and we must be unclothed that we may be clothed upon.
Yet aside from these general truths, we do not fathom the mind of the Most High.
The details of his ways with us we do not understand. Why one must travel in this way, and another in that way, remains a mystery.
Neither do we care to know.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
One step at a time is enough.
Having regard not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are not seen, and being assured by our God who leads us that our light affliction works a far more exceeding weight of glory, we are confident that all things work together for good to those who love God, to them whom he has called according to his purpose.
Then we are reconciled with the way, although it is rough and steep and the night is dark.
And cheerfully we travel onward, enduring the way for the goal in view.
Eternal glory, exceedingly great!"